It has been many years since I have experienced outright bullying. I have been mistreated by those in a place of power over me, to be sure, but I recognize the difference between positive and negative intentions. In my job in Alaska, I knew that my direct supervisor and our division chief felt it their express responsibility to create a community of well-mannered, acquiescing government automatons. Anyone with an independent mind was perceived as a threat to the stability of their tenuous locus of control.
I do not yet feel an authentic sense of forgiveness toward my superiors in Alaska. I can empathize with their intentions, however misguided. I find that I am less and less able to condone cruelness of any kind, particularly over those powerless to defend themselves. We as a species should know better from our myriad past atrocities, but we seem to perpetuate ignorance, fear, and hatred more readily than empathy and open-mindedness.
At the end of the day, we are none of us so very different, and I believe it is important to act from a space of love, however difficult it may be at times due to the limitations placed on our hearts from our own demons.
The world desperately needs more kindness and understanding—our own survival depends on it, of this I am certain.
Sadly, I have experienced enough of the world to know that it is to the darker place that people often move with instinct and reflex rather than taking the time to step back and evaluate whether there is a true threat or merely one perceived by fear and illusion.
It was instinct and reflex, goaded by fear and cowardice, which inspired my flight from Alaska, and it is this same behavior that often causes me to take refuge from the world at large.
I most recently experienced this surprising behavior just before and during the fourth of July parade in downtown Prescott, Arizona. I realize that in a state as conservative as Arizona, I really should not be surprised by outright bullying, but I still cannot help but scratch my head in response.
I arrived at the staging area for the parade a couple of hours before the actual marching would begin. Having already drunk a full glass of water and coffee, my thimble bladder began to inform me early on that it would require emptying prior to the walk around the square. I decided to take a little stroll with my puppy and search for a possible place with a public toilet.
We passed what appeared to be a gas station, and I walked around to the front and toward the door to poke my head in and inquire into the restroom situation. Walking up to the establishment, I had noticed menacing signs (menacing to someone open-minded, that is). Trump signs were sitting in the windows, along with signs claiming to serve only those who had served.
Well, I had thought to myself, I can still make a deposit in such a place.
It was not to be, however. Just as I was walking toward the front door, a woman in a large black SUV came driving up and waving frantically at me through the windshield.
I turned and walked toward her, and she rolled her window down.
You cannot go in there with your dog. You need to get out of here right now, she screeched at me.
I stood there, shock keeping me from responding (at first).
Then, I responded, you could be kinder, ma’am. I didn’t want to be too scathing because she likely armed (this was Arizona, after all), and she clearly felt threatened by me, which I found absurd but didn’t wish to test too much.
She said something in response, but I cannot recall her exact words. It was not an entirely clever retort. She was wearing a sequined top in red, white and blue, so if her level of intelligence and education was any where near her fashion sense, I can’t place judgment on her lack of wit.
I began to leave the premises and then thought I might like to take a few photos in order to immortalize the venue and its inhospitable host.
The woman had parked her jeep and came toward me. It seems I did not fit the bill for those who would be served because she told me she would call the police if I did not leave.
I wished her luck in her police calling endeavors, took a few more photos (just to irritate here), and left. My body was trembling. This seems to happen every time I bear witness to insolence.
When I reported the experience to folks waiting to walk with the democrat float, I was told not to be too surprised because the woman had a reputation for being psycho. I was not surprised, but I still wondered if I should be wearing protection before marching in the parade.
As it turned out, the only protection I needed was my natural defenses for ignoring the ignorant.
As we walked, my husky puppy was a great success and brought mainly smiles and words of admiration.
This IS Arizona, however, and veterans and others waved us away as we walked by them. I could hear parents instructing their children not to pet the husky because it’s a democrat. It was unsettling to watch natural this attempt to overpower empathy and pass on intolerance from one generation to the next.
One man booed over and over again. I stared at him in disbelief. He couldn’t be serious? More open hearts won out, and people in front of him cheered so loud as to drown out his negativity.
I wish I could say that I expected more from people during an event meant to celebrate every person’s freedom in this country, but sadly I know too well that there are many in this state and beyond who believe that freedom is only for the few who fit into a tidy regulated box that meets their strange and limited standards for existence.
The experience wasn’t so terrible as the time when I in elementary school and riding bicycles with a friend on a side street near their home when two other children on the street came flying at me on their own bikes, insults flying. It was a chase, and I was filled with fear as I was forced to decide to stand before them or to ride my bicycle all the way home on the main street, which had been strictly forbidden by my parents.
I chose flight, as I often have in the wake of intolerance. I have found that there are some people who are so enmeshed in their hatred and cowardice that there is no way to reason with them or to open their hearts. I believe their perspective can change, but I imagine it will take more than words alone to cause such a shift.
For those who cheer and spread the energy of love that this world so desperately needs, I am ever thankful. I set my intention each morning to be one of these beings.